As technical progress progresses, even everyday objects are cloaked in specific terms and complicated words, which often indicate rather simple functionality and features.
An example of this trend is clearly visible in the case of vacuum cleaners, recently associated with a technology called HEPA, and concerns the particulate filter.
What is the HEPA Filter?
What is the HEPA filter? We have certainly heard about it, let’s see what it is. HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter, which literally means “high-efficiency particulate filter”.
It is therefore a highly efficient filtration system, so high that it is between 85% of the poorest models and 99.995% of the best. Therefore it is called “absolute filter”.
The HEPA filter was born in the nuclear field, where it was important to prevent certain radioactive particles from escaping from the working environment.
Therefore he is an extremely advanced technology, one of the most advanced presents in our homes today, and beyond.
These filters are used in chemical laboratories, operating rooms, and in all those circumstances where it is essential to protect the organism or the environment from certain chemical elements.
At home, we can find filters of this kind in vacuum cleaners, air conditioners, and the so-called “laminar flow” hoods.
Generally, a filter of this type is made up of microfiber sheets, usually borosilicate, which are mounted in series so as to compose a set of filtering layers, separated by aluminum capsules.
The fluid that passes through the series of filter sheets is gradually sterilized, like the polluting solid particles, or particulate matter, remain trapped in the sheets along the way.
Thanks to this type of process, the HEPA filter can also be used to sterilize objects and substances: once the filter has been passed through, the resulting air or fluid flow can become perfectly sterile.
The Vacuum Cleaner with HEPA Filter
We’ve seen what the HEPA filter is, but what is it for? For some years this filtration system has become an integral part of the best vacuum cleaners on the market.
What is the HEPA filter for at home? Well, to catch the dirt!
If we have always been convinced to clean our home properly, it is good to know that before the advent of high-efficiency filtering technology, mold, mites, and pollen remained out of our reach, and of our vacuum cleaner.
In practice, we have always collected and vacuumed visible dust, leaving many particles dangerous for health in circulation, in particular for allergy sufferers or asthmatics and children.
Therefore the HEPA filter is a very important evolution in the field of domestic cleaning, comparable in the field of vacuum cleaners only to the invention of Dyson, to whom we owe the famous bagless vacuum cleaner.
As mentioned, it is found today in many vacuum cleaners, but also in electric brooms, robots, and handheld vacuum cleaners. It is therefore good to know what it is, also to understand which type of HEPA best meets our needs.
How Does the HEPA Filter Work?
Once we have seen what a HEPA filter is for, let’s briefly see the operation of the technology to which it owes its operation.
A good HEPA filter is generally divided into two parts: a foam rubber first, which helps retain the bulkier residues of dust and dirt that could ruin the rest of the filter, and the actual filter.
This, very delicate, is composed of those filter sheets mentioned above and is protected and isolated by a fiberglass coating. Generally, the thicker this coating, the more effective the filter will be.
During the vacuuming of house dust, the particles impact at high speed on the first part of the filter, which will retain the larger ones. The rest of the flow will pass slowly next to the fiberglass: slowing down as they pass the various filter sheets, they will eventually get stuck in the terminal part of the filter.
Keep in mind that the best HEPA filters on the market are able to retain particles as small as 0.3 microns. It is such a microscopic measure that we could neither calculate nor appreciate except in a specialized laboratory.
Despite being rather delicate parts, HEPA filters have a duration that can exceed two years and are more than simple to maintain.
The high-efficiency filter is even washable! To keep your filter in top condition for longer, just take it out of the vacuum cleaner or electric broom, run it under running water and leave it to air dry before reinserting it into the vacuum cleaner compartment.
Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to wash the HEPA filter in the dishwasher: the operation must therefore be carried out manually.
What Do We Find on the Market?
It is starting to become clear that if we have pets or children, or suffer from asthma or allergies, a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter could greatly improve our quality of life.
So let’s see what are the commercial terms to look for when we decide to buy one, and what are the dangers that lurk in the most cunning marketing strategies.
There is a European standard, EN 1822-1: 2009, which defines the filters on the market:
- E10-E12: they are called EPA filters, and they are also called semi-absolute filters; an E10 filter manages to capture about 85% of the particulate;
- H13-H14: they are the real HEPA filters, with very high efficiency, called absolute filters; they are able to reduce the particulate matter present in the air by 99.9%;
- U15-U17: these are ULPA filters (Ultra Low Penetration Air), which have a filtration efficiency between 99.9995% (U15) and 99.999995% (U17).
It will not be difficult to come across HEPA-like, HEPA-style, or 99% HEPA, indicating filtration systems that have not obtained HEPA certification or that have been tested in unrecognized laboratories. This type of wording does not guarantee the standards of true HEPA filters, so the term True HEPA was later coined, literally “true HEPA”.
If you avoid any confusion, it will therefore be good to go in search of the complete wording relating to the filtering system of our vacuum cleaner, without risking running into almost HEPA filters or, in the worst cases, not even comparable to True HEPA.
Clean Air in the House!
The vacuum cleaner, however modest, is, therefore, no stranger to technological evolution: first Dyson revolutionized the instrument by inventing the “cyclonic” system, which eliminated the bag; today, research in the nuclear field has managed to give our homes an air free from dangerous particles thanks to the HEPA filter.
The evolution then affected the filtering efficiency: from EPA filters (Efficiency Particulate Air filter), we moved on to the more widespread and more powerful HEPA, to get to the aforementioned ULPA systems that eliminate 99.999% of the particulate in the air.
To date, most of the vacuum cleaners on the market are equipped with such filtering systems, also considering the increase in diseases such as allergies and asthmatic diseases that lead to pay more attention to the quality of the air in the home.
All that remains is to choose your vacuum cleaner, or if we prefer your electric broom, keeping in mind the potential of the different levels of filtering efficiency, and choosing the power that best suits our needs.